You Need Help: How To Let Her Down Easy

Welcome to You Need Help! Where you’ve got a problem and yo, we solve it. Or we at least try.


Q:

Question for the Team/ all human beings who date: What is the best way to end something (i.e. break up) with someone you’ve been casually dating for one or two months? My general feeling is that open and honest communication is the way to go for most everything, but what if the reason you want to end things is that you just aren’t attracted to the person? Is a white lie better than the truth?

A:

Well, because you asked for advice from the entire team, here’s what I whipped up for you:

Ali: Say “I feel friend feelings toward you.”

Lizz: In my experience would say framing things as “I’m just me attracted to you” doesn’t really benefit anyone because you end up feeling like shit saying it and they feel like shit hearing it. I think “I don’t think this relationship is right for me right now.” Or “I just want to be friends” works better. It’s not even really lying because it’s true.

Stef: i would probably stress the lack of romantic connection; there’s a way to do it directly without being rude. Don’t do the slow fade; it’s mean.

[Anonymous]: Oh gosh I just had to do this casual break-up thing but thankfully had a real excuse called “getting back together with my ex.” Still feels shitty, but it’s better than having to tell them the truth (they are annoying) or doing it over text (bc that’s a bad look).

[Anonymous]: My most recent ex extinguished the dying star of our relationship by sleeping with someone else. Who needs words when you can just be a huge asshole AMIRITE.

KaeLyn: I’d say the answer to the person who asked is to be honest, but not too honest. You want to give the other person some closure and you also want them to not think you’re a total D-bag. Don’t say you want to be friends unless you really do want that. If it’s because you think they are intellectually inferior, don’t tell them that, either, because that’s mean. You can always say that the chemistry just isn’t there for you and you think they are good people, but you aren’t getting tingly feelings and don’t want to lead them on.

Stef: what if we broke up with people as though we were in the kim kardashian game and just called them after one day of not hearing from them like “maybe it’s my social awkwardness, but are we broken up?” “i really liked you, cute brunette cartoon character, i’m sorry i never had the energy to take you to that weird restaurant in paris.”

Personally, I think it’s important to recognize that what’s missing here isn’t that you don’t find her attractive, but that you’re lacking romantic/sexual chemistry and/or a “spark.” Sometimes it’s okay to be straightforward and say so because you’re not actually issuing some kind of formal declaration regarding this girl’s objective attractiveness. No girl is objectively unattractive, we all just have different things that we’re into! I’ve dated girls who were objectively unquestionably attractive and ten billion times better looking than me, but if they’re not my type then none of that really matters, and the relationship will fizzle. So it’s not the end of the world for her if she’s not your type. If that spark isn’t there, she probably feels it too. Whether or not you wanna go the basically-honest route is up to you though — definitely not everybody can take that for what it is and not spiral into a black hole of insecurity. I personally feel like it’s good to get an honest reason if it’s not a personal insult, since this is information a person applies to understanding future relationships, but probably I’m in the minority on that.

So you have many options! And, as Stef mentioned, the “slow fade” — where you stop responding to texts and calls and so forth — is mean. Don’t do that. Don’t keep stringing her along ’til the moment you’re both at a party and there’s somebody else you’d rather go home with. Don’t say anything that could out you as a liar further down the road — for example saying “I don’t wanna be in a relationship with anybody right now” is gonna leave her mighty confused if you hop into a new relationship next week.

Also, don’t say this, because it’s not true:

sorry-for-your-loss


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Riese is a Jewish lesbian and the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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27 Comments

  1. I have never played this Kim Kardashian game and I’m really intrigued. Is it like the Sims but with more cleavage?

    Love to you, question-asker, and good luck in that sea o’ fish out there. I hope you find one (or more) that give you tingly feelings soon!

  2. Yeah I’ve talked about this before on AS, and she saw it and I felt bad, but this has been basically my situation. I tried to handle it the way KaeLyn suggested. As soon as I knew she was way more invested than I was, I knew I needed to break things off, and said I just wasn’t “feeling it” and didn’t think it was fair to waste her time any further. I did it in person even though I was terrified, because I didn’t want to be a jerk, and she definitely thought I was anyway, but sometimes there’s just not a way they’re not going to feel that way. It’s not fun for anyone, even when it’s casual. I cried a lot afterwards, because it’s shitty to know someone thinks you’re a jerk, but that’s just part of it sometimes. :/

  3. I have like 16 ex-girlfriends in the Kim Kardashian game.

    It’s way too hard to cultivate something meaningful when I’m so famous I’m constantly on 24-hour-long photo shoots.

    And I still need 3 more of those K charms so I can adopt that freaking cat who lives on the wall in downtown LA.

    I have priorities, you know?

  4. I just did this the other day and totally fucked it up, so yeah honesty (to some extent) is a good call I think. I basically spouted like fifty clichés in an effort to find a reason other than not liking them enough, so I guess planning your words is the real moral of this story.

  5. Also yes, please don’t do that slow-fade thing.

    Someone kind of did a similar thing to me once and it was just really uncomfortable.

    She went away for her birthday and when I texted her to wish her a good time, she didn’t respond.
    She actually didn’t say anything for almost 3 weeks, and when she did, it was basically a random booty call text.
    Three weeks of silence was quite a departure from our several-times-a-week dirty texts and weeknight hookups at my place.

    We’d only been seeing each other for like 6 weeks, and it was mostly physical, but it was really awkward for me to not know why she wasn’t interested in hanging out with me anymore, especially because I kept seeing her at my favorite queer dance night so often that I stopped going for a while.

    And yeah, I totally recognize that I could’ve called her too, but something felt weird about her non-communication and I totally disconnected.

    Also two weeks later I met somebody pretty awesome and this month I married the fuck out of her so I’m doing okay. 🙂

  6. I’ve had the slow fade thing and I’ve done the slow fade thing. It’s just not good either way and it’s leading someone on. I’ve also been the jerk who texted someone to dump them. I think being honest is the way to go, and if you wanna be friends, really be friends. If you don’t tell them that you need to take some time from them. No matter what, you’re gonna be a jerk, but I think being an honest jerk is better than any other jerk.

  7. “Oh gosh I just had to do this casual break-up thing but thankfully had a real excuse called “getting back together with my ex.””

    Thankfully?! What?! I would rather hear almost anything than “I’m getting back together with my ex” cause what it sounds like is “I’d rather be with this shitty person it didn’t work out with than you.”

    • I hear you, but also, this is pretty particular to the situation…. There’s a helluva lot of reasons people can be ex’s besides someone being a shitty person. There’s a helluva lot of reasons that people could have broken up besides “it didn’t work out” in the sense of being mismatched or the relationship being unhealthy. Sometimes getting back together with an ex is a good decision.

      That said, I would not use it as my excuse to break things off with someone. Those are two separate relationships and should be treated as such. I agree with you that a person being broken up with should not have to hear “I like them better, so, bye” as a reason. That’s shitty.

  8. I have been the slow fade jerk because I didn’t know any other way to do it because sometimes it’s just. so. awkward. But it always sucks, and I imagine it sucks being on the other side of it. Things don’t work out sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that honesty isn’t important still.

    • Yeah, I’ve definitely struggled with this. Like, if things have been really casual and have not been going on for long, isn’t it an exaggeration and super awkward to meet the person to dump them? (A recently dumped casual fling actually said to my friend: “Why did you drag me all the way here to dump me when you could have done this over Messenger?” (it was a few years ago)). But isn’t dumping someone via text an ass move as well? Does anyone do phonecalls anymore? This is why I’ve used the slow fade and no, it didn’t work so great either.

      Dating is hard.

      • I have had the SAME THOUGHTS. I eventually decided to meet her because I didn’t think it was proper to break things off over text, but then it felt like I HAD just dragged her out just to make her feel bad in public, and I hated that. She looked so excited to see me, and it was THE LITERAL WORST. So I don’t even know now.

      • I have called to break up with someone. It felt like she was giving me the slow fade (I only saw her once every 1-2 wks) and I felt like she wasn’t interested in trying to make things more serious so I called her up because I couldn’t wait for her to make time to see me a week later. I did recently see her at the local gay dance that she would never go to with me when we were dating so it’s probably for the best.

  9. The main thing is to keep the focus on you, and what you’re feeling / not feeling – rather than intimating that it’s because of a lack or defect in the other person. So, “I’ve realised that I like you a lot as a friend, but I don’t have the fluttery feelings that I should have for you as a lover. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t feel right for me, and I want to end it now. I’m hoping that if we stop being lovers, we might have a chance of being friends. If that turns to be something you want too.” Too many times, we shuffle off the responsibility, and let the person think it’s because they’re not good enough, in whatever way. The same principle applies when we’re IN a relationship. Keeping the focus on our own state of mind and heart – and taking responsibility for what we find there – is more responsible, more honest – and is usually much easier for the other person to deal with, too.

  10. I’m horrible at break ups.
    Actually, I’m so horrible, I’m not even dating anymore, because I’m that scared to be in a relationship/whatever that I can’t get out of.
    Technique
    a) Be so horrible and uncaring, you try to get the other person to break up with you.Remember to act surprised/hurt,though, when they actually do.Otherwise:Awkward.
    Really,awkward.
    b)Don’t break up even though you know it’s not working for..philosophical reasons.Like, I wasn’t able to let go of my faith in Love, and that things work out, if you only just love one another enough. I was able to let her go, just not my belief in all things good.I miss it still.
    c) Complete Radio Silence. I actually got a Text once with the words “Friends of mine saw you at the theater.I’m glad you’re alive.” Then write an email/letter three weeks/months after initiating CRS detailing your motivations and how they hurt you.
    Surprise:There might be lashback.
    d) the fade out.
    Last year, I was trying to overcome my Date phobia, and there was this girl I was seeing for a little while. There was a bit of physical attraction.
    However, she had long, manicured fingernails,even after date four, while not exactly fitting into the femme spectrum of things (?!?) and she was, well, boring.
    The Talk honestly given would’ve been:”Look, I know how this is going to go:Once the spark has worn off, and I know you feel it,too, I will be stuck in a relationship with you that will make me suffer.And I won’t be able to end it, or it will end horribly. I will make you hate me, and I will resent you. Knowing this and still getting it on with you, would make me a terrible Human being. And I decided to be a decent human, when I was a kid.So we’re not seeing each other anymore because of a decision I made when I was five.Also, what is it with the nails?”
    So instead of brutal honesty, I froze her out over months. Not the best, really, but I was kind of helpless.I’m really bad at this.
    But then, who isn’t?

  11. “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” -Mark Twain
    HONESTY is KINDNESS.
    I try to give the person I once felt something for (or just fucked)enough respect and honesty as they gave me when they took a chance on me.
    It’s pretty painful sometimes, but I reflect on times when people didn’t offer me answers to why it couldn’t work and I was super hung up on what was wrong with me instead of the fact they probably just didn’t want to be with anyone at the moment (or that I just wasn’t for them).
    Honesty is the best policy, ya’ll 😉

    • I second this, but will add- honesty, yes, but tactful honestly is key. Don’t be overly critical. It’s easy when it is a fundamental surface characteristic, such as she is religious and I can’t handle that or she wants kids when I don’t. However, when there’s something about that person, such as a personality trait that you hate, it’s a bit trickier. Say, instead of being like “you’re a narcissistic bitch and I hate that,” just say, “I think our personalities clash in some pretty key ways that can’t really be worked out.”

  12. Ah the slow fade it’s the thing that experiencing made me no longer seem like a heartless bitch to someone I broke up with in a firm, direct and “emotionless” manner. Yeah that’s right the actions, or inactions rather, of other people got me an apology and a thank you from an ex that previously besmirched my character.
    Think about that kids.

  13. I admit to being terrible at confrontations/break ups. The last one was a little over a year ago, and boy was it a doozy. We only dated for a summer, but there were MANY reasons that I wanted to get out of this relationship with this woman, mostly because she was just psycho. She had a terrible anger management problem, and acknowledged it, but-get this- thought it was the JOBS OF THE PEOPLE AROUND HER to just put up with it/not do or say anything to piss her off, because that was just part of who she was. When I tried to explain to her that that was a really immature and irrational way to look at things, she blew up at me.

    Also, she had no respect for my time or space or interests. She’d TELL me things rather than asking. She always assumed I was up for whatever she wanted to do with her friends, which led to me neglecting my own life, even volunteering at the LGBTQ Center because she didn’t like it there. What happened when I moved into a new apartment was the last straw. She promptly came over, and, before I even had a chance to do anything to the place myself, took the bed off its beautiful mahogany frame (she refused to sleep on beds with frames), brought over supplies to smoke pot even though I a)don’t smoke it and b)could have been evicted if caught, and proceeded to decorate things the way she wanted them. Keep in mind that we had only been dating for like 2 months at this point.

    After all of that, I started to pull away. One last blow up came- I don’t even remember what it was about, but we were in the car and she had major road rage. She rode the tail of this car down the BQE in New York with her middle finger out the window, honking her horn and swerving all over the place. We could have been killed. Finally, when she went away with her mother for the weekend, I didn’t say a word to her, and when she got back, I told her it wasn’t working out. That wasn’t good enough for her. She texted me incessantly, tried to demand break up sex, kept showing up at my apartment- it was awful and scary. Finally, I gave her car description and plate numbers to the complex office and told them she was not welcome and that she was stalking me and got a restraining order. I also blocked her on my phone and all social media.

    TL;DR- breaking up is hard to do, but it is especially hard with a nutcase.

    All in all, I’d say something along the lines of “This just isn’t working out for me right now” should suffice for most rational people. Oh, and never say you want to be friends if you don’t mean it.

  14. I’ve done the slow fade (terrible), I’ve done the “we can be friends” (which was totally untrue, I was the one that didn’t want to be friends WHY DID I SAY THAT I CRIED A LOT)and I’ve done the “I can’t do this right now”, which at least was honest (and cried a lot too). Breaking up is pretty horrible, but if you do it with honesty at least you can get out with dignity and some perspective on relationships and yourself.

  15. I really liked KaeLyn’s response. I would rather someone tell me straight up, that they don’t want to be friends, than to tell me ” they’re not in the right place right now,” or ” maybe when I’m ready.”

    The harsh reality is, it takes a brave and kind person to let go of someone who admires and or is attracted to you. But they need closure to move on and not pine.

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